cover image BEACH GIRLS


Luanne Rice, . . Bantam, $7.50 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-553-58724-1

Like a milder Northern cousin of Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood , Rice's latest (following Dance with Me ) celebrates the near mystical persistence of female bonds. While summering in the seaside town of Hubbard's Point, Conn., Emma Lincoln, Stevie Moore and Maddie Kilvert, the titular beach girls, were inseparable, but as adults, they've drifted apart. Stevie lives like a hermit in Hubbard's Point, unaware that her old friend Emma died in a car crash, leaving behind a husband, a child and secrets. When widower Jack brings his daughter, Nell, to the Point, Nell searches out her last link to her mother: Stevie. A bestselling children's author, Stevie is drawn to Nell and her attractive dad, but the protagonists must struggle with doubts and fears before they can consider a future together. This book is more sentimental and less suspenseful than Rice's previous novels, and fans of her earlier book, The Perfect Summer , may find the premise—a spouse who dies suddenly, with secrets that leave family in disarray—overly familiar. Fortunately, Rice's gorgeous descriptions and sensitive characterizations compensate for those flaws. Few writers evoke summer's translucent days so effortlessly, or better capture the bittersweet ties of family love. Agent, Andrea Cirillo. (Aug.)

Forecast: Those who can't get to the beach will feel transported there upon opening this book, which will likely be a seaside essential for many readers.